Thursday, November 10, 2011

Television Writer and Director Hal Kanter Passes On

Television producer, director, and writer Hal Kanter passed on 6 November 2011 at the age of 92. Mr. Kanter had worked such shows as The George Gobel Show and the ground breaking sitcom Julia.

Hal Kanter was born in Savannah, Georgia on 18 December 1918. His father, Albert Kanter, would become famous as the creator of the long running comic book series Classics Illustrated. Mr. Kanter was a writer from a very young age. He was only 11 when he sold his first article to a newspaper. He was only 16 when he worked as a full-fledged newspaper writer. It was in the late Thirties that Mr. Kanter broke into radio when one of Eddie Cantor's writers hired him to write jokes for only $10 a week.  He would go onto write for Bob Hope on The Pepsodent Show Starring Bob Hope and the anthology show  Grand Central Station. During his service in World War II Hal Kanter worked as a writer for Armed Forces Radio. Following the war Mr. Kanter worked on such radio programmes Amos and Andy, Beulah, Philco Radio Time (which starred Bing Crosby), and The Danny Kaye Show.

It was 1949 that Hal Kanter broke into television as head writer on The Ed Wynn Show. He would go on to write and produce The George Gobel Show. In 1964 he created, wrote, and produced the sitcom Valentine's Day. It was in 1968 that Hal Kanter created the series Julia. The sitcom starred Diahan Carroll in the title role. Julia was historic as the first American television show to star an African American woman in a role that was not that of a stereotype. He would go onto create and write for The Jimmy Stewart Show. He also wrote episodes of All in the Family, and Chico and the Man. He also wrote for several Academy Awards ceremonies.

Hal Kanter also worked in film as well. He wrote screenplays for such films as Two Tickets to Broadway (1951), Road to Bali (1952), Casanova's Big Night (1954), Artists and Models (1955), Blue Hawaii (1961), Pocketful of Miracles (1961), Move Over, Darling (1963), and Dear Brigitte (1965). Mr. Kanter also directed a few films, including Loving You (1957), I Married a Woman (1958), and Once Upon a Horse (1958).

As a comedy writer Hal Kanter's gift was his razor sharp wit. He could had a talent for coming up with incredibly funny lines, a talent that served him well not only in the many radio shows and TV shows on which he worked, but as a co-writer on Academy Awards ceremonies as well. It was a talent that was very much on display in many of the films on which he worked, particularly Road to Bali and Move Over, Darling. Of course, he was also very much a pioneer. In creating Julia Mr. Kanter gave American television its first female, African American character who was not only not a domestic or a stereotype, but a professional woman (Julia was a nurse).  Like I Spy before it, Julia opened new doors for African Americans in television. As a very funny man with a sharp wit and a true pioneer in television, Hal Kanter will be remembered.

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